Bodies and Structures 2.0: Deep-Mapping Modern East Asian History

Islanders on the Move

While the new settlers leading Yaeyama's commercial enterprises were swiftly linked with colonial Taiwan, Yaeyama farmers, who accounted for the majority of the population, were marginalized in Yaeyama's capitalist economy and mostly excluded from commercial trade with Taiwan.

However, this does not mean that local farmers had no contact with Taiwan. On the contrary, their alienation from the local economy resulted in many local farmers becoming migrants to Taiwan.

There are no official records of travel from Yaeyama to colonial Taiwan. Still, several archival documents suggest that Yaeyama islanders had been traveling to Taiwan for education and employment since the 1910s.

The immigrants' memoirs and my interviews suggest that Yaeyama islanders usually utilized a network of people from their hometowns who had already settled in Taiwan during the early years of Japanese colonization. This section explores the life histories of three individuals who spent time in colonial Taiwan during the 1930s and the early 1940s. Ishigaki Shincho and Yamane Keiko were both born on Ishigaki Island and migrated to Taiwan after graduating from elementary schools in their hometowns. Ara Kinue was born on Taketomi Island, and migrated to Taiwan at the age of three by accompanying her parents.

Their life histories demonstrate how Yaeyama islanders crossed the border from metropole to colony.

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